Well, it finally happened. After months of speculation, Facebook confirmed on Thursday that the company is rebranding itself as Meta.
That doesn’t mean much for the company’s suite of social media apps — according to company CEO Mark Zuckerberg, each platform will retain its individual identity. But it signals the company’s intention to pioneer the so-called metaverse. A term coined by author Neal Stephenson in the visionary novel Snow Crash, the metaverse is envisioned as a fantastical world explored through virtual reality headsets.
That raises the question: For a product designed to unite the world in work and play, how will Meta handle localization and intercultural interactions? MultiLingual has covered the benefits and pitfalls of social media localization extensively. How much more involved will the translation of an entire virtual platform be?
Right from the jump, executives are envisioning Meta as a multicultural, multilingual tool. The name itself is derived from the Greek word for “beyond”, or “after.”
“[The name] captures our commitment to building social technologies that take us beyond what digital connection makes possible today,” Alex Schultz, CMO and VP of Analytics at Meta, wrote on Facebook.
In the Meta announcement video, Zuckerberg walks through the creation of a digital avatar for the metaverse, showcasing how model customization supports a variety of facial features, skin tones, and cultural clothing.
“That’s going to be a big step forward for social presence, and I’m really glad we’re making it inclusive right from the start,” Zuckerberg said.
At this early stage, it’s difficult to imagine exactly how Meta intends to manage its multilingual experience, and company representatives aren’t yet talking freely about it. The company has already faced criticism for its lax moderation of hate speech, especially in non-English versions of its apps. Whether or not they’ve internalized any lessons from those criticisms is unclear.
According to the Meta announcement video, Zuckerberg sees the metaverse as a valuable productivity tool. That vision will be realized through both first-party software — virtual home, work, and game spaces and user-created content — and hardware — headsets and glasses that can access the metaverse.
“Imagine you could be at the office without the commute,” Zuckerberg said in the announcement video. “You would still have that sense of presence, that shared physical space, those chance interactions that make your day, all accessible from anywhere.”
At least one thing is certain: Meta has a long road ahead of it. Zuckerberg told market analysts he anticipates it will be years before their vision of the metaverse becomes profitable.
“The metaverse vision for us is a 5-, 10-, 15-year journey,” Vishal Shah, Metaverse VP, told CNBC on Thursday.
But for Zuckerberg and the company, the investment is worthwhile. They see the metaverse as nothing short of transformational and say they’re committed to getting the global experience right.
“It will take time to build equity under the Meta brand,” Schultz said. “It will be up to the entire Meta workforce to build products and experiences so rich and remarkable that the possibilities of the metaverse captivate our community around the world.”